My husband purchased this website domain for me for Mother’s Day. Pretty sweet, right? He knows me. He didn’t come up with the name. I had been running a wordpress-hosted poetry blog by the same name for a few years. Then it seemed it was time to move on to bigger things. Like full-length posts.
While I navigate this blogging thing, I’m also writing a novel. And although I’ve written lots of short stories with fleshed out characters who do important and beautiful things with their lives and reveal meaning to ours, this novel thing is hard work. I know the beginning and the end, but I am having a hard time with the middle (the details) of it. How will my characters get from the muddy, messy place they are in right now to where the novel ends in all its majestic conclusion?
The answer is the same as it’s always been because the question is also the same question that’s been asked for centuries. How does anything ever happen? One word at a time. One scene at a time. One step at a time.
Every time I put my pen to my notebook, my characters live and breathe. I need to remember that this is how they move forward. It’s how they learn. It’s the only way they will get to the last page.
I think some of my problem is that I see the end and it’s so beautiful. Right now, though, my characters are stuck in a world of daily life, of working and struggling with tiny things that they are allowing to become big things. Here in the real world, I am doing the same thing.
I have a daily life where I live and breathe, where I walk, where I do dishes and clean up spills, where I sit on the sidewalk with my kids and collect rocks from the gravel parking lot, carrying them in buckets. On their own, these scenes are nothing. But when you place them all in sequence, they make life.
My kids are so happy with the details of life. They LOVE picking up rocks and carrying them in buckets. But I get caught up in the ending. “Yes, rocks are great, but don’t you see that this parking lot will be paved and it won’t flood anymore when it rains?” But my kids also love the rain, and the giant muddy puddles it leaves behind.
While I don’t know my entire future, I know a few things. There are a few things we can all be certain about. Yet if we focus too much on the future, we won’t ever get there. If I keep wanting to just get my characters to their last scene, there will be no meaning to it. The future is always made from tiny, daily, walking, breathing, rock-collecting, mud-stomping details where our feet get dirty and it seems all we have are useless pieces of ground.
But the ground is not useless. It is necessary. Without it, our feet would never go anywhere.
While I work on the rocky, muddy details of this novel, while I parent my children who never seem to learn, I am also writing blogs right here. These blogs are like exercise. They are like tiny rays of sunshine. They are like the moments I spend collecting rocks with toddlers who will one day make me a grandma. I can’t finish a novel in one day, but I can finish a blog post.
Life is like the gravel outside my window, which is pretty useless when picked apart and scattered. Together, lots of rocks make ground. Like together, each of my moments make days, make years, make a life.